Battle Report – Operation Monte Carlo – Spectre Operations

Well it’s finally time. Spectre Operations V2 has finally arrived on my desk and it pushed me to go get a game of it together down at the wargames club. And having just watched Triple Frontier, the idea of contractors doing bad things for gold was sat on my mind. And then I found the gold marker from my demo game and an idea was formed.


Background

Due to the announcement of ISAF-AP’s intention to reduce the number of troops currently involved in direct ground operations in Bazistan, the recently formed democratic government of The Bazi Republic has decided to contract the Argo Corporation to run and assist it’s internal counter-insurgency programs.

Using a core of trained contractors, (veterans of operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan), accompanied with locally hired fighters (many former insurgents or ex-regime military), Project Final Hand has been a strategic success, clearing several areas of rebel activity entirely as well as making strides in others. Their success has been a key feature in the Argo Corporation’s PR documents for the next year.

However, Argo has a history for mismanagement of projects like these and so payment for those involved has been somewhat delayed. This has led to some unsavoury activities – contractors moonlighting for private militias or selling high-end equipment on the open market. Additionally, the use of former insurgents has led to some concerns of information leaks and backroom deals between unit commanders and the remaining insurgent cells.

And then rumours started to spread. Rumours about a C130 that crashed into the Bazi desert over a year ago. About how it was carrying a shipment of the Bazi Family’s gold reserve. Something that was never recovered but some say was found by a rebel band and carried away. Perfect for the taking, if only someone knew where it was…

Situation Brief

The Players

BLUFOR – The Argo Corporation

BLUFOR was comprised of two groups of Argo Corporation Contractors and locally hired help.

Group 1 was the Quick Reaction Force. 6 Professionals, including a squad leader, all armed with carbines (and the usual extra tricks), pistols, and frag and stun grenades. The team also carries first aid kits and wear body armour. They are mounted in an LTV, an armoured patrol vehicle mounting an HMG in a remote weapon station with an MMG on the flexible rear mount.

Group 2 was a squad of local trained troops in body armour and totting a PKM and an RPG alongside the assault rifles. They were also led by a single Professional trooper to act as their mentor (bringing their skills up to a higher level) while also giving him frags and smokes alongside his carbine to act as a force multiplier.

OPFOR – Local Bazistan Militia

The OPFOR was a bit more random. To represent this being an insurgent stronghold with hordes of bad guys being woken and pulled into the fight, I just kept adding more and more fighters each turn. These were randomly selected but mostly armed with assault rifles, representing the rank and file arriving.

Additionally, the rebel commander could call for reinforcement using a command test. If successful, the player could then request specific weapon selections like RPGs or machine gunners.

They also had two IEDs which could be placed to along the route and could be set off via two triggermen (portrayed on the board as civilians).


The Battlefield

The gallery above shows the layout of the board. As you can see, it’s a real street fight, a mixture of large and small buildings around the main road. The new walls I painted up helped to improve the feel slightly as well as adding some cover. And I FINALLY got to put that pylon on a gaming board.


Recap

As the game begins, BLUFOR started to roll into town.

The QRF remained in the vehicle, while the local force broke down into two groups.

With the rumbling of the LTV echoing through the streets, an insurgent group breaks cover and starts to setup an RPG-29.

A local peers out of the doorway as the armoured vehicle rumbles past.

Despite rumbling forward, the LTV’s remote weapon system managed to come to bear on the insurgent that had popped out from behind the concrete barricades. A quick burst and the threat was downed.

The sound of gun fire draws in another group of insurgents.

BLUFOR continues to advance, the locals sticking close behind the vehicle as it advances.

Another shot as the LTV crew suddenly spots the barricade blocking the way toward the objective.

A successful command test brings out a fighter with an anti-material rifle. He sets up watching the road, lining up his scope on the driver’s windscreen. His first shot simply cracks the glass, causing the gunner to change his target.

More fighters start to spill out out into the streets, ready to ambush the approaching BLUFOR. Above, another civilian pulls out their phone, his fingers hovering over a special contact…

A civilian narrowly avoids a grizzly end when they step into the street in front of the towering armoured patrol vehicle.

One of the insurgent groups decide to engage more directly and take up firing positions on the ground floor of the corner building. These guys actually managed to put some fire down and take out two local force soldiers before the LTV blocked them from view.

The LTV suddenly now enters a target rich environment – the marksman down the road or the squad of hostiles in cover.

He picks the marksman, the hail of .50cal round tearing the rooftop apart and suppressing the threat easily.

The next turn, as the insurgents start to take up ambush positions, another burst of .50cal fire takes out the anti-material threat, the impacts kicking up a plume of dust.

With the way forward blocked, the LTV turns and begins to head down the side road. Inside, the QRF start to get a little concerned about the occupants of the buildings around them.

All the while, the local forces had been moving to take up positions to support the LTV’s advance. After taking fire from a two storey building ahead of them, one fireteam from the local forces hunker behind the road barriers and return fire.

However, the insurgents began to move forward in force, taking up ambush positions.

As the LTV rounds the corner, the action hots up. The two operators in the back (only one pictured), looking up at the rooftop above them suddenly spotted movement. With reactions created by long hours of training, the carbines come up and hammer the low wall the enemy were crouching behind, ready to ambush. This fire successfully suppressed the insurgents above, making them far less effective.

The RWS system then dropped elevation and hammered through the wall, each shot taking out more of the insurgents and pinning down the last squad member.

The local forces were also in contact. After taking out the group on the rooftop that had initially slowed them, they soon received a reversal of fate when an RPG went off in their midst, vaporising their squad leader and sending two others into bleeding out states.

Things soon turned from bad to worse as the insurgents above managed to pop their heads up and mag dump into the rear portion of the LTV. When the dust cleared, one of the QRF had fallen backwards off the cargo bay, immediately KIA by the hail of shots.

With time running out at the club (not helped by me messing around before the game started after leaving a few things at home), the BLUFOR player decided to push on through the streets. And then this happened – a car bomb IED went off, stunning the crew and bringing the vehicle a halt. Just in time for an RPG to be spent spinning into the back of the crew compartment and injuring everyone inside.

As the LTV sat smoking on the street corner (and the hours having ticked by), we called it there. The contractors had tried their hardest to get into the town but with multiple casualties and an immobilised vehicle, they would have to concede.


Analysis

Overall the game was pretty fun for me to setup and run (and it looked impressive) but something was quite right. BLUFOR struggled to get off the starting line and then bogged down at the second corner.

Now, this was our first game in a while playing Spectre Operations and the rules played beautifully. Anyone in the open got taken out very quickly, shooting was quick to work out and it was simple to perform some cool manevoures. It was also a nice change of pace to plan – I love Skirmish Sangin’s character depth but just being able to use a standard chart helped.

After having a few days to think about it, I think the issues/tweaks fall into two areas:

Scenario Tweaks

Photo from SESWC

So I designed the scenario after only a very quick initial read and vague remembering of my time testing version 2. For this reason, there were a few things I was worried about (such as vehicles being basically invulnerable and professionals running rings around everyone else) and may have ended up correcting a little too far.

First of all, the masses of reinforcements the insurgent player was given. This did a really good job of making the BLUFOR player realise how much trouble he was in as AK totting gunmen just sort of appeared on the board every turn. On the other hand, it did also mean that there was an awful lot of OPFOR on the table and they were able to set up ambush points far too easily. I think rather than just offering free reinforcements every turn, I should have required the command roll AND let the player pick between 5 goons or support weapons.

I also think I didn’t provide enough forces for BLUFOR. An additional unit, probably some more trained forces to represent local friendly militia, would have given the player another option, a set of troops to move down one of the flanks and help keep their offensive moving while also giving another set of rifles to engage targets with.

Finally, the route. I set up the barricades to really force the LTV down a specific route (I blame designing for video games) and so placed the barricades up at the first junction. However, when combining this with the building arrangements, the LTV had no options at all. What I should have done is to move the barricade down a single junction, forcing the LTV to choose between the long sightlines and exposure of the main road

Tactical Tweaks


Photo from SESWC

However, at the same time, I think there were a few tactical decisions that I should have been advising with. Ultramodern gaming is quite a niche period and requires a slight adjustment in tactics thanks to the sheer power of modern firepower. As the guy running the game, it should fall to me to help guide newer players in the tactics to use.

First of all, staying in the vehicle. The QRF really wasted an opportunity by staying in the LTV as it bimbled along slowly at walking pace so it could continue engaging with the .50cal. Instead, four of the six operators should have disembarked to escort it, letting them use their carbines to add an additional 8 shots every turn. This would have helped to put the fir down more, letting them take down the opposition to more manageable number.

In addition, the BLUFOR guys had some toys they didn’t use. The QRF guys had stun grenades and frags, perfect for busting in and clearing buildings filled with bad guys (such as the corner building). In addition, the professional mentor had smokes which could have been useful when manevouring into the buildings.

After both of these facts, I think BLUFOR should have pushed harder. Using combat sprint to bust into the corner building and secure a multi-storey fire position for the local force’s RPG and MMG to start engaging the enemy forces. Additionally, setting up in there would have meant the LTV could have sped up and moved faster.

Finally, civilians. I should have made it more obvious about letting the BLUFOR player arrest civilians to prevent them from being used as triggermen. This would have encouraged them to perform actions that might have neutralised IEDs before they turned the LTV to broken chunks of metal.

Overall though, the idea of the mission is good, my plan is to illustrate the tactics more and make people aware of the special points that Spectre brings over other modern games.


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